(Tetum) Seeds of Life (SoL) has begun piloting a Men’s Health Program (MHP) with some of MAF-SoL’s community and commercial seed production groups in the western municipality of Ermera as well as in four sucos in Raumoco watershed in the eastern municipality of Lautem that are already piloting participatory village development.

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Trainer explains the importance of involving women in decision making © Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Peer educators from Raimoco watershed, Lautem municipality © Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

MHP is part of SoL’s efforts to strengthen a community’s social capital by improving members understanding of reproductive, maternal and child health, improving family relationships and reducing domestic violence.

‚ÄúWith SoL now in its final year we are taking every opportunity to strengthen the relationship among the members of seed production groups and village communities‚ÄĚ says John Dalton, SoL Australian Team Leader.

¬†‚ÄúLike the training and mentoring in savings & loans activity being offered to commercial seed production groups, we hope Men‚Äôs Health program will offer meaningful interactions to members when they are not engaged in seed production which is a seasonal activity,‚ÄĚ he adds.

we hope Men’s Health program will offer meaningful interactions to members when they are not engaged in seed production which is a seasonal activity

This program is extending the experience and materials developed by Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT) in partnership with Family Planning New South Wales (FPNSW), who together initiated the first Men’s Health program in the coffee growing district of Ermera in 2009.

The SoL-CCT collaboration is training 10 peer educators nominated by each aldeia of   a participating suco community as well as 5 program coordinators from either a local or international NGO in Lautem or from MAF in Ermera.

CCT Men's Health-10

Jose Martins says he gains better understanding on men’s and family’s health ¬© Yessy Betty / Seeds of Life

Jose Martins, chief of Mota-ain Furak, a farmer’s association from Letefoho, Ermera involved in commercial seed production, has been selected as one of the peer educators. He said the program gave him a better understanding of factors effecting men’s and women’s health and nutrition.

‚ÄúThrough the training, I gained better understanding of men‚Äôs health and my role to improve my family‚Äôs health and other members of our community.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs important because I have limited idea about my health and that of my family before. I also learn the importance of involving women in decision-making for family‚Äôs health. I think it‚Äôs very important because usually only men make the decisions.‚ÄĚ

The above statement reflects the results of the community KAP surveys conducted by CCT in January 2010, and repeated in 2011 and 2012 in which 79% to 94% of mothers stated their husbands made the health decisions and gave permission for families to attend health services, including pre- and post-natal visits to the nearest health clinic.

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Group discussion to identify good leader characteristics in community and family © Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Group’s representative presented ¬†the results of group discussion ¬© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Starting July the trained peer educators supported by community coordinators have arranged community sessions to discuss the different modules covered in the program.

‚ÄúI will share the men‚Äôs health topics with my group members. We will have two-hour session every week. I hope they will understand the important messages from the men‚Äôs health program,‚ÄĚ says Jose.

‚ÄúWith this program, we expect that women and children in the farming communities benefit as much as the men. CCT experience shows women become increasingly involved in most groups‚ÄĚ says John.

Although this is not one of SoL‚Äôs core activities, SoL believes that programs like MHP can contribute to the development of rural communities in Timor-Leste. One of the studies conducted by SoL staff concluded ‚Äúharnessing social capital and empowering women can boost crop production and other sources of family income‚ÄĚ.